Modern Afghanistan was founded in the mid 18th century, when Ahmed Shah Durrani and his armies conquered the areas of current-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and eastern Iran, beginning the Durrani dynasty. During the 19th century, the British and Russian empires competed for influence over Afghanistan, which was seen as a central strategic point in Southeast Asia and a gateway to India. This protracted period of Anglo-Russian rivalry (known as “The Great Game”) resulted in much of Afghanistan falling to British control, until 1919, when King Amanullah Khan reclaimed Afghan autonomy from the British and, in 1921, signed a treaty of friendship with Russia. Afghanistan remained neutral throughout World War 1 & 2, while family rivals vied for the throne in Kabul. In 1973, a bloodless coup began the first Afghan Republic, which has been in civil war ever since, punctuated by foreign occupations, including the 1979 Soviet invasion, to which the United States responded by arming and supporting the Afghan mujahideen (freedom fighters), who were fighting against the Soviet forces. The Soviet occupation lasted until 1989 and cost between 1 and 2 million Afghan civilian lives, with some 5 million others fleeing the country. After the Soviet withdrawal, the US did little to help rebuild the war-ravaged country and the next decade saw a rise in sectarian violence, as well as a rise in the power of the Taliban, who seized Kabul in 1996 and controlled over 95% of the country by 2000. In 2001, shortly after the World Trade Center attacks, the US launched a military offensive in Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaeda training camps and overthrow the Taliban. In December of that year, after the recapturing of Kabul, former mujahideen leaders met in Germany and agreed to form a new democratic government. They chose Hamid Karzai, a descendant of the Durrani clan, as chairman of the interim authority. Karzai was elected President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in 2004. Since that time, Afghanistan has struggled to rebuild and recover, while still grappling with waves of Taliban insurgency and continued US military presence.

Hip Hop in Afghanistan is a relatively new phenomenon, rising out of the embers of the Taliban ban on music, which ended after the US invasion in 2001. The most prominent figure to emerge on the scene is the Kabul-native, DJ Besho, who left Afghanistan as a boy and discovered Hip Hop in Germany. When he returned years later, rapping in Dari, German, and English, he quickly made a name for himself with stylized music videos that were played on a newly-created independent TV station. Since then, Besho has been the center of an expanding Hip Hop scene, and has set the tone with inoffensive lyrics, patriotic themes, traditional music samples, and no scantily-clad women in his videos. With 60% of the population under the age of 20, it is little wonder that artists like Besho have amassed such a huge following in such a short amount of time.

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